Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

A decade in the making, Women and Men is McElroy’s sixth novel, and one that some critics believe brought the themes of his earlier novels together. The book was criticized as an indulgent piece of work, in part due to its massive length of more than a thousand pages and its intentional subversion of traditional story structure. McElroy was elsewhere praised for his Proustian passion for detail, his devotion to the authenticity of human thought, and his ability to interweave a complex of both universal and profoundly personal matters into a single book. The novel has been compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) because it shares a similar deconstructionist, postmodern approach and a tendency toward extended reveries. McElroy’s fascination with science and technology does not fall into sarcastic elitism or blind awe. Women and Men reflects a keen eye and a tenacious determination to push the reader’s intellectual prowess and commitment to the process of reading. McElroy’s earlier novels, Smuggler’s Bible (1966) and Hind’s Kidnapping: A Pastoral on Familiar Airs (1969) rely more openly on a recognizable realism, while Ancient History: A Paraphrase (1971), his third novel, marks a commencement of the fragmentation and reconstitution of the narrative. Nevertheless, despite the obvious theme of a father-son relationship, Smuggler’s...

(The entire section is 425 words.)